ISLAMABAD, Nov 14: While it is important to talk about the rights of Pakistanis living abroad, people and the government should also focus on the rights of Afghans living in Pakistan.

This was stated by participants at an international conference ‘Potential and Prospect of Pakistani Diaspora,’ organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).

Participants said xenophobic attitudes of the people of host countries towards Pakistanis should be criticised but Pakistanis within the country should also reform their attitude towards the Afghan nationals living in Pakistan.

In the inaugural address, industrialist Dr Kamal Mannoo said that to exploit the potential of non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs), the country needed clear and effective policies and in that respect a lot could be learnt from India which was using non-resident Indians as a tool for its soft power.

He said that the NRPs were keeping the country’s economy afloat but we could tap far more from their resources, if we could put our house in order and end the present mayhem and total absence of governance.

On the subject of Pakistanis living abroad, Dr Marta Bolognani, specialist on British Pakistani community, said that the third and fourth generation Pakistanis had only a symbolic relationship with the country which they called “Back Home” and an increasing number of them preferred to call themselves British Muslims rather than British Pakistanis.

Dr Sabiha H. Syed, a research scholar on migration, spoke on changes needed in the domestic education system, role of the Pakistani diaspora in conflict situations, issues of reintegration and rights of the migrant community.

Dr Sabiha said that most Pakistanis were doing odd jobs that were dirty, dangerous and degrading, but the government needed to sign international protocols that protected the rights of its citizens working abroad.

The speakers highlighted the importance of overseas Pakistanis and termed them as an important source of foreign exchange reserves for the country and that they also contributed towards the social and cultural development of the country.

However, former ambassador Sarwar Naqvi said that social integration was required by Pakistanis living abroad and he described the Pakistani community living in western countries an annoying presence for the hosts as they tended to force their ways on others.

“We are now beginning to be known for our bad behaviour – this way we cannot win the respect of our hosts,” he added.

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